After years of watching TED Talks online, I decided to attend an independently organized TEDx event to see what it was like. The two-day TEDx MidAtlantic, held in Washington, D.C. on October 26-27, 2012, with the theme of “Be Fearless,” exceeded my expectations. It was an intense exploration of passionate people and inspiring ideas, a glimpse into the unfamiliar, and an inoculation against cynicism and doubt. If I had to sum up the whole TEDx MidAtlantic 2012 experience, it would be that it demonstrates the great potential that is possessed by every single person. We can realize that potential when we overcome fear, embrace failure, inspire activity, and reject the inertia of yesterday’s ideas.
Session 1 – What We Hold Dear
Silvia Barcellos discussed the human tendency to prefer immediate gratification – choosing chocolate when it is offered now and an apple when it is offered later – and its implications for health and economic decisions.
Alessandro Acquisti (@ssnstudy) revealed that with ubiquitous online social networks and face recognition technology, nobody in public is really anonymous. Along with his discovery about patterns of social security number assignments, his research has proven that your face can reveal far more about yourself than you may have ever thought possible.
Jessica Ladd (@JessicaHLadd) shared a solution to limit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. STD’s spread when people do not know they have been exposed. When people do find out that they are carrying a disease, they may be ashamed to tell their sexual partner or partners. A simple web site provides education and anonymous notification services.
Jules Polonetsky (@JulesPolonetsky) spoke about the economics of online privacy. If you are a guest in my house, I intend to offer you a slice of pie. However, that does not mean you can just walk in and take it out of my refrigerator. Likewise, online businesses can alienate customers if they exploit personal data without first establishing a mutually understood context for its use.
Jaison Morgan (@JaisonMorgan) presented the history and relevance of incentivized competitions as a stimulant for innovation. For centuries, western society has been encouraging innovation with contests and prizes, a phenomenon that disappeared for most of the 20th century, only to see a resurgence in the late 1980s.
Lt. Gen Mark Hertling presented his finding that obesity is not just a domestic health crisis, but a national security issue, and poses challenges for training and fielding our soldiers. In the Army, it is being reversed through a “Fueling the soldier” initiative emphasizing healthy choices.